Creating a sense of Belonging….

I used to think…

I was an open-minded educator that supported diverse and inclusive viewpoints.

What I have learned….

Allowing staff to express their identity in a safe and inclusive way is important to their sense of belonging.

This week I read an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Are your D&I Efforts Helping Employees Feel Like They Belong?” By Michael Slepian

It made me step back and reflect on how as an administrator I worked to create a community in which all employees felt like they belonged.

What I am struggling with is where is the line between allowing others to express their true identity and professionalism? What about conformity with cultural norms and the expectations of the organization?

As an international educator there are certain cultural values and norms that may put some individuals at risk if they were to express them openly within the context.

What about a culture that does not accept gender equality, gay or transgender individuals or is explicitly racist?

What about individuals in positions of authority that are not open-minded or expresses explicit bias or even prejudice?

How can I protect and support everyone despite these challenges?

How do I navigate my core beliefs and values and those of the country? What values am I willing to flex?

How do I ensure that my staff are safe, valued and free to be their authentic selves?

In the article the authors found that “When employees feel they can’t be their authentic self at work, they have lower workplace satisfaction, find less meaning in their work, and have one foot out the door.” This means that student learning may also suffer as the result of a teacher not feeling valued, respected and included.

The article provides several things that leaders can do:

1. Recognize but do not overemphasize differences.
2. Allow individuals to be heard and do not rely on minorities to be the spokesperson for the race, gender, ethnicity, religion etc.
3. Give all employees a voice and channels to express their concerns. These must be authentic.
4. Treat people as individuals recognize that they are speaking for themselves and their experiences not an entire group.

We must as leaders commit to getting to know our employees as individuals.

As we begin the school year and have new employees we must take the time to authentically get to know them. Take the time to meet with them one on one in person or virtually.

What are their strengths, goals, interests and experiences?
How can you tap into their strengths in order to create a stronger and more diverse team?
How can you help individuals find a balance between their true identity and the norms of the culture in which they are working?
What advice, support or mentorship can you offer?

What are you learning?

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